Brice Feillu of the Vacansoleil team hasn't had a fantastic season so far this year. The Frenchman, a brilliant climber, in fact qualified it as "average so far", explaining that neither his performances, nor the team's race programme are going according to plan in 2010. Vacansoleil suffered a second blow after their non-selection to the Tour de France when it was announced this week that they were not invited to the Vuelta a Espana, either.
"This non-selection [for the Vuelta - ed.] is another additional disappointment," Feillu told French Cyclismag on Thursday morning at the start of stage six of the Tour de Suisse. An hour later, he was one of the 13 men in a breakaway in the queen stage of the event, almost holding off the chasers to the finish in La Punt.
"2010 will remain a somewhat special year. It's not a catastrophe, either. We'll make up for it next year," the 2009 Tour de France stage winner continued, but his disappointment showed.
Feillu has been on the attack twice in the Tour de Suisse until now. On Tuesday - one day after the announcement - the Frenchman rode in front of the bunch on his own during 160 kilometres of the stage, only to be caught with 25 kilometres to go for a sprint finale.
After a brilliant 2009 season with Agritubel, the 24-year-old and his older brother Romain opted to sign with the Vacansoleil squad in the hope of team leadership at the Grand Tours. But Tour de France organiser ASO snubbed the Dutch outfit, just like Vuelta organiser Unipublic.
"Maybe we made a mistake - but everyone makes mistakes," he commented on his choice of team in the light of its non-selection. "It's never easy to make a decision in life. If the team had been selected for the Tour, people would have said 'great, with this team at least you are the leaders'."
Feillu's first half of the season also remained somewhat anonymous as the lean climber found it hard to compete in the cold - and European spring has not been clement this year. "I completely fell out in Paris-Nice. It was cold, and I can't handle the cold. I continued with races in bad weather conditions. Maybe this knocked me down. But I'm not satisfied with my season start generally."
The non-selection for the Tour de France also weighed on his performances "for two or three weeks. I thought about it, and it annoyed me."
Now, Feillu's form is improving greatly, as he has shown in his Tour de Suisse breakaway. "I continue my way with perseverance. I always did it like this, as the lucky moments do come. At the moment, I'm waiting for this to happen but the season's not finished yet."
The Frenchman, who will also take his chances at the national championships later this month, will thus spend the month of July at home and work out a race programme for the rest of the year. As for him remaining with Vacansoleil and risking being snubbed by the Grand Tour organisers again in 2011, he said, "I signed a two-year deal with them. There's always a way to bail out but even if there is the deception of not doing the Tour, nor the Vuelta, I honestly feel well in this team. At the moment, I don't plan on leaving them."